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tv   The Civil War Conversation with Gary Gallagher  CSPAN  August 4, 2019 10:00am-11:00am EDT

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unique programming exploring our nation's past. american history tv is only on c-span3. next on the civil war gary gallagher talks about his academic career and his approach to studying the civil war. peter carmichael, a former graduate student of gallagher's, conducts the interview. peter: good evening, everyone. it's my pleasure to welcome gary gallagher, formerly the third professor of civil history at the university of virginia. prior to that, he taught for many years at penn state. and i'm not going to give you a long list of his publications. you have written or edited scads of books and articles. you don't hear the word scads very often.
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gary: not from adults. [laughter] peter: we don't want to speak only about your scholarship. you said you didn't want to make it all about you. i'm interviewing you, so that is going to be hard to avoid. he says no. it's going to be ok. gary: i said i'll do whatever you want to do. that's what i said. peter: i can assure you he did not say that. case any of you are wondering, this is the profound flaw in oral history. [laughter] gary: because there you are. you're going to write about tonight. you have two diametrically different comments. you need to pick one and pretend that's correct. peter: so this evening, we did agree upon this.
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again, we're going to come back to your scholarship, but we vote tonight about the lesser-known gary gallagher, the unknown gary gallagher. we won't divulge all your secrets. is that ok? we didn't agree upon that either. we did? ok. we're having trouble getting out of the gate, aren't we? gary: i'm just listening, peter. you're the one controlling the gate. [laughter] peter: so your first professional job was an archivist at the lbj library. can you tell us a little bit about that position? gary: i went to graduate school at the university of texas in austin and i was there in the mid-1970's, took all my coursework, and surveyed the countryside. and there were no jobs. i was part of a lost generation of doctoral students then, and i was asked in the summer of 1976 to edit a backlog of oral histories. they had 125 oral histories that
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were conducted in 1968 and 1969 just sat there. i agreed to do that. when i finished that, they asked if i would like a job as an archivist at the lbj library. it is part of the national archives. and i talked -- we talked about as a family and decided that was a smart thing to do because there were no teaching jobs. that is what i did. peter: what were some of the things you did? gary: i specialized in the papers of some of johnson's key aids. i did joe califano's papers. i did bill moyer's papers. the kerner commission on violence from 1968, those kinds of things. but toward the end of my career, i spent a good deal of my time helping with exhibits the lbj library mounted. they did a tremendous exhibit on ulysses s grant, that borrowed artifacts.
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including his watercolors. ,rant was a great watercolorist as many of you know. that's what i did a lot. and because i had a phd, they had me haul famous figures around when they came into talk. so i got to talk to henry kissinger and people like that. peter: tell us about kissinger. gary: he was secretary of state. [laughter] peter: recount your conversation with kissinger. gary: i would lob one question and then i would be quiet for a long time. he did tell a funny story about lbj. you don't want to hear this. peter: i do want to hear this. i asked. i remember this from grad school. gary: he said he was driving with lbj one time and he looked over to him and said henry, what is that? he pointed at a piece of machinery. henry didn't know so lbj explained. henry, what's that? the third time, he pointed to a cow. he said henry, what's that?
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kissinger thought it was a trick question and said i'm not sure. he said henry, that's a cow. that passes as humor. [laughter] you are calling henry kissinger to the lbj library. peter: while you're an archivist, you finished your dissertation. gary: i did. peter: tell us about that process. gary: i finished my dissertation after theatrically dropped out of graduate school because i had been assigned a dissertation topic, which you well know i do not do. that's the worst thing you can do as a graduate professor is pick topics for your students. it's hard enough to write a dissertation if you're interested in it. and they picked one for me, which was the election of 1852 and the demise of the whig party. this is when the new political history was just catching fire. and using computers, i am a luddite so that would have been disastrous for me. but i pretended to be working on
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it for two years and went all over the country and took lots of notes. but nothing happened. i did write one paragraph over the course of two and a half years and i kept getting threatening notes from the department of history. you're about to run out of time. i had had a string of fellowships there. they weren't concerned about me. they were concerned if i didn't finish, it would make the department look bad because they had given me four of these fellowships. no one had had that many before. in any rate, in the end, i just had some good friends over one night. we built a fire. i burned all the notes i had taken in two and a half years and then i sent them a very theatrical letter, withdrawing from the department of history at the university of texas in austin. peter: how did you get back in? gary: a couple weeks went by. i'm sure they had a meeting and said this makes us look bad. [laughter] they said what if we let you write about something you're interested in? i said alright, but i'm still close to the six year limit. i had i think 16 months to finish.
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and they said if you can find a topic that would work, we'll let you do that. and i didn't have a topic. but a friend of mine, named alan purcell, who taught at austin community college said that he had run across a great set of letters that hadn't been exploited. i went down, took a look. they're spectacular, two great sets of letters. one to his best friend, a man named david shank. he later sat on the high court in north carolina. and one to the woman he married. so, a great set of love letters and a great set of public issues and military events letters. and the bottom line, i'd been doing the background reading for that since i was 10. so it was actually a topic i could do in 16 months. so that's what i did. that turned into the first book that i published. peter: so i use this transition -- when you were 10, you were 10
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growing up in colorado on a farm. we're going to talk about this. what did you enjoy? gary: about being on a farm? nothing. [laughter] gary: i knew by the time i was 11, i wanted to live on city water and sewer, that was obvious, and do something for a living where one cloud couldn't come over on one afternoon and ruin the whole summer's work. but i kind of lost myself in the civil war there. i read the american heritage picture history of the civil war when i was 11, bought a copy, came out in 1960, and i was just captivated by that book. and i had one grandmother who didn't care about the civil war, but was the most loving, wonderful grandmother, and she started buying books for me on my birthdays and christmas. sheep bought me the potomac trilogy -- she bought me the
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potomac trilogy and so forth. that was in the middle of the centennial. there was a lot going on. my mother and grandmother and i, in between irrigations on our farm, my father said we could do this as long as we weren't gone more than 12 days. we drove from alamos to gettysburg and back in 12 days. and he had a bunch of sites along the way. it was great. my mother and grandmother dumped me off on the battlefield and came into town and got their hair done. i know that because my grandmother kept a diary, which i have, a diary of the trip, which is the most wonderful thing to have. and she wrote in her diary i appeared to be having fun. [laughter] gary: and i was. peter: so that first visit to gettysburg? gary: 1965. peter: where did you go? do you remember? gary: there are pictures of me in the peach orchard and what i thought was the most iconic photograph of the civil war, the dead rebel sharpshooter killed
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by a concussion, not a mark on his body. did a funny description in the sketchbook. i was photographed there, the usual places. somebody from colorado, i looked at cemetery ridge and looked at things called hills and ridges here and thought, where are the hills and ridges? [laughter] they are little wrinkles in the ground and they have grandiose -- they call that south mountain? [laughter] gary: anyway. i wasn't impressed with the high ground in the east. peter: so, coming to gettysburg, as is the case for so many of us, has such a powerful impact. though often, when one goes into academic history, you totally lose sight of its importance. you never have. could you talk to us a little bit about the power of place and how that's been a part of your teaching? gary: i think because i had
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somewhat an atypical avenue into academia because i worked at the lbj library and i had been in the real world for a while, it always seemed important to me that whatever i did in academia should also have some dimension that reached out to people who were just interested in the era, the way i had been when i was growing up. it seemed that there should be more bridges between academia and the public than there are. and one of the key places where can happen, i knew also from experience, was at battlefields, where you can make a connection to the past in a way that you can't. seems like i'm mainly aimed this way, so i'm going to turn like this. you can make a connection there you can't make in many other places, and make 1 -- and you know this well -- where you go to talking about the battle to much larger issues. the main thing is to orient them to the ground. make them understand what happened. you can also talk about why --
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showed in uniform that up here, what did they think was an issue? how did this battle reverberate among civilian populations when it was over? those kind of things are easy to do on a battlefield site. peter: and of all the places, and you've done countless tours, virginia -- gary: not countless, but hundreds. peter: tell me, is there a particular battlefield or spot where you find has incredible interpretive power? gary: i think gettysburg is in a category by itself because it has so much that allows you interpret the memory of the war as well as what happened here, just because of the amount of outdoor sculpture here. there's nothing else like it. the inscriptions are golden for someone trying to interpret. just making comparisons, the first time i came here, there was no indication joshua lauren -- that joshua lawrence chamberlain ever trod into the earth. there wasn't even account path to the 20th main monument when i
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came here. path to the 20th main monument when i came here. joshua lawrence chamberlain were not mentioned in the booklet. the hero of little round top was gouverneur lauren, who we might infer because he was the one who has a statue on the battlefield. the view of the people who were alive then is gouverneur warren, not joshua lawrence chamberlain. the second one would be vincent, who is on top of the 83rd pennsylvania monument, and has the little modest marker that said he was wounded and died and promoted to brigadier general. it's the wonderful place to talk about the disjuncture between history and memory. you can do that at gettysburg as well as anyplace i've ever taken people. you can also do that in petersburg. you can point to the monument at petersburg that went up right after "glory" came out and talk about how popular culture spills over into how we view historical figures. if you take the killer angels
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and ken burns, and ron maxwell's translation of the killer angels cinema out, joshua chamberlain isn't what he is now. that's a perfect example of how popular culture and memory and history are combined and work off of one another, and sometimes work against one another. i'd like to talk about david ireland and juxtapose them against joshua lawrence chamberlain in the 20th main. the 137th newd, york did at least as well, and i think better at spacing an entire brigade of federalists, who climbed up and down round top in the afternoon. but david ireland didn't live forever, didn't survive the war, didn't write his memoirs, didn't become governor of maine, didn't, didn't, didn't, all the things he didn't do. i admire joshua chamberlain. he's an academic who function in the real world. just think about that. [laughter] gary: you have to admire that
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about him. still he has become an outsized figure. i wrote a book about him a number of years ago about the civil war in the cinema and popular art. and i had two graduate students, who are now published senior scholars in the field, who went through every issue of all the popular civil war magazines to see which figures had been painted most often. and of union figures, it's joshua lawrence chamberlain. and that would have surprised william tecumseh sherman or philip henry sheridan. they would've been taken aback to think that chamberlain would resonate more than either of them. peter: when you think about people coming to these sites and thinking about these questions of memory as you put forth, our visitorssitors -- are actually able to do that?
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when you think about the interpretation that's available in the monuments themselves, it seems to me that these important issues between what's happened, the vast majority of people who come to these sites are not thinking about those issues. gary: i agree. peter: so what can be done? gary: that's where people such as you and i come in that should be part of our job in my view. it's one of the most important things anybody who teaches history should do, right at the beginning of any class at any -- beginning of any class of any kind, is get the audience, whether undergraduate students or graduate seminar, or interested laypeople such as we have here tonight, to get them to understand the difference between history and memory. they're not the same thing. to understand that memory often, i would say, usually trumps what happens because people think -- people react to what they
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think happened. it's been given to them by an encore or grandfather, no matter how may times someone at the end of my civil war class, where one of the themes i hammer is of course that wouldn't have been secession or war without slavery. you simply can't get there. but they'll say i really enjoy your course, but my uncle says you're wrong. he said slavery wasn't that important. i used to ask sharp questions. now i just smile. is this your uncle, the haberdashery? tobaccoistle that that spent his life studying these things? [laughter] gary: and i mean that in a really nice way, of course. i mean really, it's so easy if you can get someone to agree only to look at the evidence that's available in the midst of events. if you're trying to figure out how important slavery is to secession and the coming of the war, don't read anything after 1860 and 1861.
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i don't want to hear about anything written after the war. nothing. don't bring it up. i want to know what they are saying going forward, not retrospectively when they are trying to fix things so that they will look better. and the two perfect examples on the confederate side is jefferson davis and alexander stephens. tell them what they said in the spring of 1861, and then read of the passages between the late war between the states and the rise and fall of the confederate government. and it makes the case beautifully. peter: one of the other things you pointed to about coming to battlefields is the importance of military history. could you just speak about the place of military history within the field of academic history? gary: yes, i've grown sort of weary of this. peter: i can tell by your reaction. gary: there are a number of
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people who like to pretend that i'm this old-fashioned, operational military historian, and that i think that's all that's important about the civil war, which of course, is an infamous falsehood. i think that military history is important. i think if you're going to deal with the civil war, you have to come to grips with military history in a serious way. because the ways in which what happened on battlefields and with armies crossed over into everything else that was happening, whether you're talking about social phenomena or political, whatever it is, there's tremendous connections between the two. you have to understand between the homefront and the battlefront. and you have to understand the generation. look at the covers of harper's weekly during the civil war. 80% of them deal with military topics. it's just what people are thinking about. you can't understand the process of emancipation if you take the union armies out of the picture.
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you can't understand why emancipation moved to the fore in july of 1862 if you don't understand the impact of jorge for phones retreat after the seven days. i mean, is it just coincidence that on july 17, the second is a -- the second confiscation act is a coincidence? lincoln tells us cabinet is a proclamation of emancipation? antietam isn't the key battle. antietam gives the occasion to announce that preliminary proclamation, but it's the seven days and mcclellan's failure and mcclellan's retreat at the moment of potential victory that -- the potential of united states victory that convinced both lincoln and the congress that it's going to take a longer, harder war. it's going to put slavery on the table for the confederacy. once you do that, everything is on the table. you cannot overemphasize how big
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a shift that is in july of 1862. and that flows from a single military event, because the hell or the confederates momentarily, even in places that don't matter, like where i grew up. yes, henry sibley wandered up the rio grande, and then he wandered back. [laughter] gary: that didn't change the course of the war. the seven days did. and all the bad news in the west, within the civil war context, the theater between the mississippi and the appalachians. if mississippi had fallen, as it should have, that would've ended the war. that would've been it. but it didn't. peter: you got your job at the western theater, 15 minutes in, i thought it would come in. gary: i love the western theater. i'm a westerner. just because i live there doesn't mean it doesn't matter.
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[laughter] peter: i agree with you overall. let's go back to the emphasis on the military operations. gary: we can talk about your boyhood in indiana. peter: we'll do that tomorrow. gary: ok. peter: but one thing left out of the equation is that the slaves didn't notice the process of little bit. gary: i didn't say they didn't. peter: but you didn't say they did either. gary: you asked me about the military. here would be my question. here would be my question. where does possible freedom come soonest and most obviously during the civil war? and the answer is it comes from -- it comes where united states military forces, appears soonest and stays longest in the mississippi river valley on the lower peninsula of virginia. you chart the progress of the united states armies and you can chart freedom's spread during the civil war. peter: agreed. absolutely.
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gary: i'm not saying black people don't play a role. of course not. but if the army is not there it doesn't matter how much you want to achieve freedom. you're probably not going to. peter: absolutely not. gary: enslaved people in texas have no chance of achieving freedom in the civil war because texas is beyond the reach of the united states military. peter: you're also acknowledging if slaves had not taken that step, a step that military officials on the union side did not want them to take. gary: most of them didn't. not all of them, but most of them. peter: i think were generalizing here. gary: most white northerners didn't give a good god damn. that is just the way it is. by our standards, they were profoundly racist. book on officers in the western theater. they embraced emancipation as they did in the eastern theater, for the most part, not because they cared about black people, not because they thought slavery was a monstrous institution, but because it would help restore
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the union. they had very pragmatic, self-interested, and we could say racist reasons for doing it. peter: practical. gary: very practical. peter: the author is speaking here next year. gary: well, good for him. [laughter] gary: but the point is, and peter, i love this. this isn't a zero-sum game. if i make the point that the united states forces are crucial to the process of emancipation, it doesn't mean i'm saying black people don't have a critical role. peter: i agree. gary: that's what you're saying. peter: that part of your analysis i did not hear. gary: the longest chapter in this book is on emancipation. they are not what we wish they would be. it would be great if the mass of white, loyal citizens really cared about black people who were enslaved in the slaveholder states. they just didn't. peter: i agree, but you're overstating it a little bit.
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i think what you're missing is there was a shift, a pragmatic shift, that turned many white northerners to become antislavery. while you are absolutely correct the racial views were abhorrent, i -- gary: what do you mean by antislavery? they want to kill slavery. they think killing slavery would hurt the confederacy because the confederate war depends on slave labor. the confederacy wouldn't have mobilized 80% of its white males except for the presence of enslaved labor. peter: and many northerners venturing to the south saw the south as a backward place. they didn't attribute that to slavery. for a military end, but for the future of the country. gary: they thought slavery hurt white people. they had more empathy for them then enslaved black people.
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peter: without a doubt, you're one of the first civil war scholars to integrate military history with the home front. you did that in a series of essays that opens the book on various campaigns, the very first ones you did were at gettysburg, i believe. then you did one on fredericksburg, richmond campaign, antietam. and almost every one of those volumes, the opening piece, it was an eye-opening exploration into the views of civilians, how those views were so interconnected to what was happening on the warfront. i agree. i'm curious, that approach, where did it come from? something you thought about in graduate school? i need to look at this. gary: it came from reading things. peter: in graduate school or after? gary: in graduate school i wasn't supposed to work on the civil war. i came to it very late, as i explained earlier. so no, it wasn't really graduate
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school. it was later. and it simply became apparent, after time that it didn't make sense to me to try to write about any of these battles without trying to understand what impact they had on the homefront's, and in turn, how concerns on the home front shaped what happened with armies. where they were deployed, what resources they got. why did grant come east in 1864? he didn't need to come east. that is a political necessity, because the civilian population of the united states demanded that their best soldier beat lee's army. that is why he came east. grant was a savvy guy. politically he understood that. it was imperative he knew that. he didn't need to do that. it just seemed to me as i read that these ties were there and it didn't seem to me that very many people at that time, 20
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years ago now, were exploring them. peter: let's talk about how you approach your craft. i just want to read a quote from you in another interview, where you're referencing norma peterson, who was deeply influential when you were an undergrad, college or university? gary: now is a university. it was a college when i was there. peter: this is dr. gallagher in another interview. dr. norma peterson was ferociously in favor of playing it straight with the evidence. she pounded that into me. what exactly does that mean? peter: norma peterson taught at this little school in colorado. she was chairman of the department. that's what she insisted on being called. chairman of the department. she published four books while she did this, which is astonishing. i took her civil war course and she didn't mention armies or battles one time in her civil
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war course. that is all i had read about as a kid. this was a whole new civil war to me. i would talk to her about how to do this. what do you do when you're trying to decide something about the past? and her answer was, you look at as much evidence as possible, and you go where the evidence takes you, even if it takes you someplace you didn't want to go. and my mentor in grad, my main mentor in graduate school, was barnes fletcher lathrop, who didn't publish very much. he trained 44 phd's in his career at texas. but he had the same attitude, just absolutely, i had a really good idea at one point. and then i read some stuff and i figured out the idea was not going to work. the evidence didn't support it. and i went in, in a slightly whining tone, told him that. and he just looked at me and said, god dammit, gallagher,
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just go where the evidence leads you and you'll be alright. and i think that's right. that's my philosophy. look at as much stuff as possible and go where it takes you. gary: do you see any limitations to that approach? gary: no. i mean, every approach has limitations, but i see far more benefits. there are a number of ways to do history. you find evidence that supports your great idea. there's a most always enough evidence to support any idea. there's tons of evidence. peter: let's talk about another one of your books, a very important influential book, "the confederate war." i don't have the publication date. gary: 1997.
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peter: why did you think it needed to be done? and were there any surprises? gary: i wrote "the confederate war," which argues they had a sense of nationalism, and struggled resolutely to achieve independence, for which i was called a neo-confederate, which is interesting. the letter it's at that time was emphasizing the home front, unhappiness of women in the confederacy, tremendous class, divisions in the confederacy, arguments the confederate student try the hard. there was an argument in the book called why the south lost, which is a good book by had way and arthur jones. it's a book i've used a lot. anyway, it's a good book, but it argues that they really should have tried harder. and then at the end, compares them to paraguayan's, who basically engaged in self-mutilation in the 1870's.
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and it just seemed to me that key parts of the evidence were at odds with this idea. and one of the key parts is the percentage of loss among the white population in the confederacy far exceeds that of any work. it wasn't even close. it's a greater percentage than the british and the germans or the french or the russians in world war i, which is often the standard we use for slaughter. while all the things we were writing about our true, of course there's class conflict. there's always class conflict. that is not even interesting to me. that's like going to the beach and discovering sand. [laughter] gary: i'm at the beach, i found sand. god almighty, who would've thought? the interest in question to me is whether that conflict really has a bearing on a major event. so yes, there's conflict. yes, people become disaffected. that's actually true. but it seems to me that on the whole, it's a resolute resistance the confederates put up. in the main reason is that there slaveholding social system is at stake. if they lose the war, they're not going back into the union
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the way they were. they were going back without certain control over black people. just read robert e lee's letter to the secretary of war in january of 1863. lee is considered a moderate on these things. he is beside himself writing about the emancipation proclamation. he has an apocalyptic view of what the confederacy would mean because of the emancipation announced a few days earlier. peter: i would say the presence of class to censure, that it has been so diminished of late in our understanding of the confederacy. and the racial explanation -- it is obscured, some of those tensions. so again, just a move toward confederate history started back in colorado. gary: and the seeds of that book
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came out of the other book. he deployed that language all the time. and it seemed to me this dichotomy, you're either loyal to your state or loyal to your nation. that's how lee is often presented. our loyalty is much more complicated than that. there's also loyalty to the slaveholding south from this class, and it's that loyalty, i believe, that easily turned into loyalty to the confederacy. it's a seamless transition there, i think.
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peter: so, when you think about the status of confederate history today, where do we go? gary: there's always someplace ago. i don't know exactly where we are going. peter: you said something in another interview. historians that are looking at new things, that their research is often on the margins. so, what do you mean by that? that may help us understand where our next step is. gary: i don't think all of it is, and i don't mean that in any -- i just mean that some of the things we haven't explored are things that would be considered
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marginal. guerrilla warfare has gotten more attention the last 15 years than it did in all the years leading down to the last 15 years. i think guerrilla warfare is very important in the war. i think it's something we need to understand better. where i think we go off the rails as if we argued guerrilla warfare is the most important element of military affairs in the civil war, because i just don't believe evidence supports that at all. peter: but don't you think it would benefit the field if we stop framing questions around the outcome of the war so when we look at guerrilla warfare, people wouldn't make the claim it had this critical role in
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ultimate union success or whatever? wouldn't it be better to simply try to understand the nature of guerrilla warfare, which i think a lot of the scholars are doing? gary: it would be better. peter: it opens up the class conflict. gary: if you found great stuff about something and immerse yourself in a topic, to argue for its centrality rather than marginality. i'm not saying guerrilla war is marginal, but it's not the center of things. and i'm not -- i don't want to linger on the west. i think what happened in the western areas, your smiling, i really believe it's important. and we should know more about it. and when i say the west, the real west. the trans-mississippi. my west. the west where it doesn't rain enough to grow crops. i think what happens out there is interesting. i think it's worth writing about. i just don't think it figured very prominently in the war planning and the allocation of resources for either united states or the confederacy. and if you want to figure out what people thought at the time was important, where do they spend money? where did they put their armies? where did they spend their money? and that was east of the mississippi, for the most part. peter: staying on this topic of confederate history, there doesn't seem to be a lot of room to maneuver for new scholarship. but what about just doing confederate history in today's
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climate? what would you say if you were still training graduate students who wants to do something and confederate history? gary: i would tell them they need to be very careful. it's what i told you when you said you wanted to do military history. i didn't let anybody write about military history. i had to graduate students who did, two out of 31. i told them don't do that because you won't get a job. you have to think about what's getting received in the perception -- profession, and that's not going to be. i would be careful about picking a federal -- confederate topic. peter: when you are in graduate school, you made a point that they picked a topic for you and you didn't have an opportunity to focus on civil war history.
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so tell us about that experience, because it was still a very meaningful and powerful one. i assume a very exciting time. what did you get from graduate school in texas? gary: i got from graduate school that you're generally miserable in graduate school and filled with self-doubt, and you get butterflies for going into seminars. you know, the usual things. and then you won't get a job. other than that, it's just all wonderful. [laughter] gary: what i love finding stuff. i like reading evidence. and then putting it together.
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i mean, looking at as much as you can look at, thinking about it, and if you can find new patterns or patterns that seem at odds with what dominant interpretations seem to be, that's exciting to me. but the key is always, are the patterns really there? are the patterns really there in the evidence? because if they are not, do something else. peter: yes. gary: i know that smile very well, peter. go ahead. [laughter] peter: yes, you're right. those patterns are important. and i would argue those patterns arise because that's where the evidence leads us. the problem is our
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evidence-based is almost imperfect. that's no great surprise. but that evidence base almost always comes from a particular class. that's usually the privileged and the most powerful. and put simply, those patterns are so important because it helps us understand dominant values, dominant ideology. and thus, it gives us an opportunity to maybe look elsewhere that doesn't fit those patterns. you might claim they are on the margins, i want to know about those people. i want to know how they interacted with those dominant patterns. i don't think we should just go with where evidence leads us.
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definitely do that. but i think we need to look elsewhere to voices that are not so common. gary: you're talking about evidence. peter: absolutely. gary: so you're still going where the evidence leads you. peter: i am, but lifting up those voices that say i'm stuck in my evidence here and this pile is so low. gary: what he means is i said that to him when he was writing his last book. we went back-and-forth and peter would listen and then ignore me. [laughter] gary: and in the end, i said that's ok because it's your book. you don't make someone write the book that you would've written. that is the worst thing you can
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do. peter: i mean all kidding aside, i never, ever, ever felt any pressure in graduate school in writing three books under you now, that you ever said pete, you need to do this. gary: i wouldn't have. peter: absolutely. i speak for many of dr. gallagher's former students here, they'd all agree we always felt we could go into the classroom and turn something into you. and you would look at it, look at it hard, ask tough questions. and my book that just cannot is a lot that are, and it's because of you. i will be honest, there were days when maybe nice words didn't come out about the editorial process. [laughter] gary: and i would've thought -- i can't imagine anyone being more patient than i was. but go ahead.
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[laughter] gary: why can't you just let me get the last word in? peter: get the last word in -- peter: why can't you let me get the last word in? gary: get the last word in, peter. peter: no, the moment's gone. [laughter] peter: the debate or seminar that really stuck with you, to this day. gary: the best seminar i had in graduate school was a seminar on the american west, taught by a man named john sumner, whose own work had been on the first trait. he wrote four books on the first trait in the 1960's -- for trade in the 1960's. and he was an authority on the fur trade, and he taught a seminar in the west that was revelatory. he defined the west to include canada. he said the west doesn't change when you cross the boundary of the united states and canada. it also included part of mexico. it went below the rio grande. mindy re-think how do you
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reconceptualize the west -- it made me rethink how do you reconceptualize the west? he also encouraged me to make any kind of argument we wanted. and everything was new to me. i didn't know much at all about the west. but he did a masterful job of guiding the discussion. he intervened only rarely, when he really thought we had gone so far off the rails that we needed to be reined in a little bit, so the rest of the meeting could be productive. that's the best seminar i ever took. peter: and i suspect he said to you what you always said to us, take the author's on his or her terms. don't critique an author for the
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book they did not write, which is just infuriating that it continues to happen. gary: if you agree to review a book in a journal, don't review it and make the review about what you would've written. you can disagree with it, but don't just engage. yes, that's right. and he did another thing. graduate students are prone to attack whatever they are reading. what a ridiculous argument. this is stupid. that's right, i picked 21 books, which is probably how many you read in seminars. i tried to find the 22 that are deeply flawed and assigned those to you. peter: one thing is you had us read the so-called classics. you weren't afraid to assign a ub philips. i mean, you would never just assign as books published in the last five years. gary: they don't make sense. peter: they don't make sense. and i feel old when you said you taught so many phd's. you did a graphical class with barnes lathrop, and everybody got an incomplete. it took you a year to finish the paper. gary: the paper was 340 pages long for that class. everybody took an incomplete. i was a year late and i was the third to finish out of 12. peter: and if you had turned it in sooner, you would've been disappointed. gary: yes, he was an odd fellow. peter: so you've now been retired for a year. you spent last year at the huntington library. gary: i did. peter: people would love to know what the huntington library is and what you did there. gary: it's heaven for people
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like us. it's a spectacularly rich collection of historical materials. it also has art. and one of its great strengths is 19th-century u.s. it's set in 200 acres of gardens in san marino, california, immediately adjacent to pasadena. you have the san gabriels right behind you. you can roam around to your hearts content. it's unbelievable. and one of their huntington put together this collection, not by buying individual items, although the gutenberg bible was individual, and the audubon burns of america. but he also bought great collections. john paige nicholson was a union veteran who began in the late 19th century to collect everything about the civil war, when his library was published as a catalog in 1914. it was a thousand pages long. that's one of the foundational collections at the huntington library. it's an amazing place. peter: what were you working on? gary: i went there to do one thing and i ended up doing another thing. i went there to write one last book about, kind of, what i think is wrong about the world of civil war understanding now and in popular culture. i was grumpy and not really -- and someone said you already done that. that's why you're struggling with this. you've been writing these
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thousand word essays for civil war times for 15 years or whatever it is, and every idea you're talking about now, to me, appeared in one of those in some way, and appeared in books. she said why don't you just gather all of those, put them in groupings, write analytical introductions, and frame those as this book? and i started doing that in late january and finished it the day before i left for huntington. that's all about the enduring civil war. peter: these essays focus on what you think is wrong, currently. gary: wrong or right. peter: so tell us some of the good things. what gives you hope about the future of civil war history? gary: what gives me the most hope is the variety of elements in the war that have been explored in useful ways.
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the civil war was a very narrow -- the civil war was high politics, military affairs, and diplomacy, for the most part when i was wrong -- when i was young, even when you were young. it's become incredibly richer than that. we didn't know much about common soldiers. bill riley was really it. there was incredibly rich -- i've used incredible twice now -- we know a lot more about -- it's not as if we didn't know about what sometimes called the dark side of the war. of course we always knew. but we didn't know about it like now. we didn't know nearly as much about women in the war. i think we'll have reached the best place in dealing with women in the war when it's no longer specialized studies that talk about women in the war but they're seamlessly integrated into studies of some other aspect of the war. peter: layered narratives.
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gary: that's right. in the process of emancipation and the african-american side of the war is -- you can't even explain, really, how much richer it is now than it was 30 years ago. peter: but also in danger of becoming this autonomous story. gary: no, none of this is -- they're all part of a much broader tapestry. and that's the challenge, when we know so much about so many elements, how do you do justice to all the things we know now in a narrative that still maintains some momentum and can carry -- there is a narrative to the civil war. there actually is. and it does go into different directions. peter: i think many people don't realize what an impact the series, civil war, has had on
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this field. you edited this series for how many years? gary: i began in the late 1980's, before we named it. matthew hodgson, a legend and publishing, he was really wonderful. peter: how many titles did you do? gary: we did 15 books before we named it civil war america. overall, 115 books in the series were ones that i -- peter: reminds me of something you said earlier, you were charged with being a neo-confederate. i think it's -- you have to not take into consideration civil war america, which covers all facets of the war. imagine civil war is one of the most important books on the cultural history of the war. there are no books committed to women in the war, to memory. much of what you spoke to about the richness of the field, much of it comes from civil war america.
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there are a lot of things for you to be proud of in your career. tell us, what stands out? gary: my students continued to edit. you've been one of them. one of them was here earlier today. there are many more titles. there must be 130 titles, 135 titles in the series now. i'm very proud of that. i'm proud of the military campaigns in the civil war series, books of essays i envisioned as a way to have graduate students get publications. many of my students, including
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you, had essays. but also, those were intended to make campaigns as more than armies maneuvering in general. i've been lucky with my career. i'm very proud of my graduate students. i've had wonderful graduate students, wonderful. peter: i was a runt of the graduate students. gary: i don't know what that means. peter: the runt of the litter. gary: i know what runt is. peter: we're going to end. 10 questions. gary: i'll either answer or i won't. am i going to be graded? peter: here's question number one. which historical figure do you most identify with? gary: identify with. i don't really identify with historical figures. i honestly don't. peter: number two, this is easier. favorite professional sports team? gary: that's not even close. the colts. peter: when they were in baltimore, of course.
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gary: because of johnny unitas. peter: peyton manning. gary: and lenny moore. peter: lionel mitchell? gary: the family that moved them to indianapolis not so much. but i love the colts. peter: conway twitty or the pet shop boys? gary: what was the second one? peter: the pet shop boys. gary: i don't know the pet shop boys. and i don't like conway twitty. peter: you know them. we had a discussion. gary: i like willie nelson, waylon jennings. peter: what about dwight, dwight yoakam? gary: dwight yoakam is great. peter: what talent would you most likely have? gary: i would like to play the piano really well. my mother can play the piano really well and i can't play at all. i would love to play the piano. peter: sushi, barbecue, or beet salad? gary: that's a faux choice. i went barbecue with beet salad.
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if i can only have one, beet salad. peter: what is your greatest extravagance? gary: art. peter: what kind of art do you like? gary: i like california impressionist art from the late 19th century to the late 1940's. and i like contemporary art that depicts northern new mexico and southern colorado. those are the kinds of art i spend money on. peter: who's your favorite hero in fiction? gary: has to be a hero, not a heroin? can it be a heroin? jane austen. peter: and you read every year. gary: i read all of jane austen's novels every year, except northanger abbey. i read the other five. peter: facebook or twitter? gary: please don't make me answer that. i'm not on facebook or twitter. peter: i was hoping for a rant. gary: i think you often wonder what might disprove the existence of an all loving god.
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[laughter] gary: facebook and twitter would go a long way to doing that, i think. peter: what is your most treasured historical possession? gary: my mother's diary from world war ii, when she was in the only navy uso show in the pacific. she was on guam and saipan. she was on tinian when the enola gay took off. peter: did they do an exhibit to her? gary: it was in the national archives exhibit on world war ii on the 25th anniversary. and they used my mom's diary and some of the other stuff that she had. she was from l.a. and she was an entertainer. she got picked for this show and entertained on the aircraft carrier, and was seated next to admiral byrd, richard people in byrd. and he took his stars of his uniform and gave them to my mother. she made a charm bracelet.
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peter: do you still have that? gary: i do. i finally got her to give it to me. it's in safe keeping. peter: last question.
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your favorite non-civil war historic site? gary: mesa verde. peter: ok. what do you love about it? gary: mesa verde, it's just an amazing place to think about how that series of structures was constructed, when it was constructed, the environment it was constructed. it's an amazing place to me. and i went to it late. like many people, i didn't care about where i grew up. my heart was where the civil war was. when i finally got there, and you can climb up the letters and go all through -- ladders and go all through mesa verde. it's an amazing place. peter: so that's the last one. i'm sure you're relieved.
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again, thank you so much. just for a second here, i can't tell you how meaningful it was to be able to sit in one of dr. gallagher's classes, as well as his seminars. it was a really magical moment and i'm always thankful dr. gallagher took the time, you came down with nipper, your dog, and we walked around. gary: battlefield dog. peter: and we talked a lot of history. best decision i've ever made was to go to penn state and study under dr. gallagher. so, lost my voice, that dr. gallagher was not only this great advisor. but he has, and i speak for all his graduate students -- he's always there for us, always invested in our lives. not just our professional lives. this is a man, as you can only imagine, extraordinarily busy, the kind of publication record he has, to do all he's done. but he always makes time for his students. that's one of the great gifts
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you gave all of us and that we hopefully will take to our own students in our own classes. so again, dr. gallagher, thank you so much for coming here this evening and we're looking forward to hearing you speak about alexander and your new book, civil war places. thank you, dr. gallagher. [applause] >> american history tv is on social media. follow us at c-span history. next on american history tv university of chicago political , science professor austin carson discusses his book "secret wars: covert conflict in international politics." he delves in the way state powers secretly intervene in foreign wars, offering examples from the korean and vietnam wars and argu


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